During our route through Greece we spent three days in Athens visiting some of its main attractions. Although it is a huge city, somewhat chaotic and not particularly beautiful, its heritage is overwhelming. Many tourists limit themselves to visiting the Acropolis and spend a few hours in the city, but if you have more time you will see that Athens offers much more. Here are our 10 suggestions for places to see in Athens!

BEST THINGS TO DO IN ATHENS

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Acropolis

If you only have one day to see Athens, you should focus on exploring the Acropolis. This will take at least three hours, but it’s well worth it. The Acropolis of Athens rises on a small hill in the center of the city and consists of a collection of historical buildings mostly belonging to the so-called “Century of Pericles” (480 – 404 BC).

Of course the most outstanding temple is the famous Parthenon (432 BC), where geniuses like Ictinus, Calycrates or Phidias participated. The walled enclosure at the top also includes the temple of Athena Noe, the Erecteion and the Propylaea, masterpieces of classical Greece. On the southern side of the hill, you can also visit impressive buildings such as Herod’s Attic Odeon or Dionysus’ Theatre.

There is the possibility to buy a combined ticket which also includes Hadrian’s Library, the Ancient Agora and its museum, the Roman Agora, Kerameikos and its museum, the Lyceum (Lykeion) and the Temple of Olympic Zeus.

Adult: 20 ? | Reduced: 10 ? | Combined: 30 ? | Entrance without queues
From 8 am to 7.30 pm in high season (until nightfall in general). Closed on public holidays.
odysseus.culture.gr

Acropolis Museum

The Acropolis tickets do not include the visit to the Acropolis Museum, which is very close to the south entrance of the site. This spacious and modern three-storey museum, opened in 2009, houses some of the most important finds made on and around the Acropolis hill. You can see from the first archaic pieces found to some of the most precious works of art from the main temples, such as the Parthenon frieze or five of the original Caryatids from the Erecteion.

Adult: 5 euros | Reduced: 3 euros | Entrance without queues
From 8 am to 7.30 pm in high season (except Mondays and Fridays) Closed on public holidays.
theacropolismuseum.gr

Neighborhood of Plaka

Plaka is a historic quarter of Athens and the oldest place in the city. Located immediately northeast of the Acropolis, Plaka is characterized by its labyrinthine, winding streets that are clearly reminiscent of the period of Ottoman occupation. The area, full of cafés, typical taverns and craft or souvenir shops, was inhabited from ancient times, but its current appearance dates back to the mid-18th and early 19th centuries, when most of its houses and villas were built in the neoclassical style.

As well as walking along Adrianou Street, the main artery in Plaka, or having a drink in the lively Filomousou Eterias Square, you should not miss the area of Anafiotika, a small and charming corner of the neighbourhood with its own entity and the soul of a village. Among the monuments and places of interest, the Roman Agora (with the Tower of the Winds, Hadrian’s Library, the Fethiye Mosque, etc.) and the Lysicrates Monument, dating from 335 BC, are particularly noteworthy.

Monastiraki

monsatiraki

Monastiraki is a neighborhood adjacent to Plaka. It takes its name from the old monastery located on Monastiraki Square, one of the city’s nerve centres. This square, with its constant activity, is well connected by metro and serves as a starting point for any route through the city, as well as a meeting place for local people, tourists, street vendors, etc.

In the square you can see the Tzistarakis Mosque (1759), today part of a museum, and the Pantanassa Church (10th century), where the disappeared monastery that gives its name to the neighborhood was located. But perhaps what attracts the most visitors is the area around the square known as “Monastiraki Flea Market”, a set of streets that form a kind of large bazaar where you can find everything and you can practice bargaining. On Sundays it is crowded.

From the square you should not miss a walk along Ermou Street. Just 200 m from Monastiraki, in the middle of the road, you will come across the small and coquettish Panaghia Kapnikarea Church (11th century), one of the oldest in Athens.

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Syntagma Square

Syntagama

If you continue to walk along Ermou Street towards the east, at the end of the road you will come across the enormous Plaza Síntagma, surrounded by wide avenues and rather bland buildings. The square itself, which consists of a large esplanade dotted with trees here and there, is not that it has a great visual interest, but it is one of the most emblematic places in the city. It’s also known as Plaza de la Constitución because the people gathered there to force King Otto I to sign the 1843 Constitution. In more recent times it witnessed the suicide of pensioner Dimitris Christoulas and was a regular site of protest during the Greek depression.

The square is flanked on one side by the Parliament of Greece, a huge neoclassical building completed in 1843. In front of the parliament is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a 1932 military monument with the relief of a dying Hoplite soldier. The tomb is constantly guarded by the Evzones, members of the Greek presidential guard dressed in traditional costumes. There are guard changes every hour.

Temple of Olympic Zeus

The Olympion, or Temple of Olympian Zeus

The Olympion, or Temple of Olympian Zeus, was the largest temple in all of Greece. Its construction began in 515 B.C. under Pisistratus, but the work required so many resources and time that it had to be cancelled again and again over the following centuries. In fact, it was the Roman Emperor Hadrian who managed to have it completed as far back as 131 A.D.

The original temple was 96 m long, 40 m wide and had 104 columns, each 17 m high. Of that great construction only 15 columns remain standing and nothing of its interior has been preserved. Even so, it is worth visiting the enormous space that it must have occupied, today covered with grass, and the columns that still resist the passage of time. Moreover, in one of the corners you can contemplate Hadrian’s Arch, erected around the same year.

Adult: 6 euros | Reduced: 3 euros | Combined: 30 euros
From 8 am to 7.30 pm in high season (until nightfall in general). Closed on public holidays.

Ancient Agora

Ancient Agora or Agora of Athens

Immediately west of Monastiraki, and very close to the Roman Agora, is the Ancient Agora or Agora of Athens, the centre of social, political, religious and economic life in different stages of the city’s history, with the classical period standing out. Most of the constructions of the archaeological complex are totally in ruins, but there are at least two places that make the Agora one of the essential visits in Athens. One of them is the Hephaistion, or Temple of Hephaestus, one of the best preserved Doric temples. Built in 415 BC, its current good appearance is probably due to its use as a church between the 7th and 18th centuries.

The other site not to be missed is the Stoa of Atalo, a portico from the Hellenistic period (around the middle of the 2nd century BC) almost entirely rebuilt to house the small but interesting Agora Museum in Athens. The stoa is more than 110 m long and in its time it housed about 20 commercial premises.

In the agora you can also see the remains of numerous buildings that have now disappeared, such as Agrippa’s Odeon, as well as a church from the Byzantine era.

Adult: 8 euros | Reduced: 4 euros | Combined: 30 euros
From 8 am to 7.30 pm in high season (until nightfall in general). Closed on public holidays.
odysseus.culture.gr

Panatenaico Stadium

PANATENAICO STADIUM

The Panathinaikó Stadium, or Kallimármaro, is an athletics stadium whose origins date back to the 6th century BC and was originally intended to host the Panatenean Games. In the year 140 A.D. Herod Attic enlarged and rebuilt the old limestone stadium in marble, giving it an appearance and capacity (50,000 spectators) very similar to the current one. The present building, however, was remodelled in contemporary times on the occasion of the 1896 Olympic Games in Athens, the first in modern history.

Adult: 5 | Reduced: 2,50 | (includes audio guide in Spanish)
From 8 am to 7 pm in high season
panathenaicstadium.gr

Mount Lycabettus

MOUNT LYCABETTUS

With its 277 m, Mount Lycabettus is the highest point in Athens and therefore one of the best viewpoints in the city. Although the Acropolis is a little far away, the views at sunset, with the monument illuminated, are really beautiful. According to mythology, the mountain was formed when a large rock slipped from the hands of the goddess Athena. As for its name, it is believed that it may refer to the presence of wolves (lycos) in the area.

The summit houses the small Orthodox chapel of San Jorge, a restaurant and a theater, among other things. To climb you can choose to walk (long and steep climb at the end), go by car or take the funicular, with frequent services all day and part of the night (at the bottom of the post you can see the location of the station).

National Archaeological Museum

NATIONAL ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM

If you have at least two days to visit Athens, we recommend that you go to the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, perhaps the largest museum on the subject of Ancient Greece and one of the best archaeological museums in the world. When we visited it, in low season, many rooms were closed due to lack of staff and we still spent 2 hours there. If you like the theme, reserve enough time for this visit.

The museum has 6 main collections (prehistoric antiques, sculptures, metals, vessels, Egyptian antiques and Cypriot antiques) covering different periods from the Neolithic to the Roman period. The crown jewel is the Mask of Agamemnon, a gold funerary mask carved around 1500 B.C. But the list of masterpieces is endless, from the Bronze Artemisian to the incredible Antikythera Mechanism, to the Artemisian Rider or the Marathon Ephebe, to name just a few.

Adult: 10 ? | Under 18: free
From 8 to 20h in high season (Mondays from 13h)

Excursions from Athens

Athens is a good starting point for day or multi-day trips.

If you are interested in visiting islands near Athens, ferries leave from the port of Piraeus in all directions. On the Directeferries website you can find tickets for most routes and ferry companies. The closest islands to Athens are the Saronic Islands, which include Salamis, Aegina, Poros and Hydra. Beyond this area, in the Aegean Sea, are the Cyclades Islands, among which Mykonos, Santorini or Naxos stand out.

One-day cruise on Hydra and Aegina

If you want to visit archaeological sites near Athens then you have a couple of good options. Heading west, about 2h 30′ by car, you will find one of the great classics: the mythical Oracle of Delphi. The ruins are fantastic and the surroundings, on Mount Parnassus, are beautiful. South of Athens are the ruins of Corinth (1h 15′), Mycenae (1h 40′) and the Theatre of Epidaurus (2h). It is possible to see them in the same day, but if you want to take it easy we suggest you to do it at night.

Nafplio

Nafplio

If you prefer to visit charming cities or towns near Athens, we propose three options. A very popular place is Nafplio, a charming coastal city that you can visit in a morning. We pass through it on our way between the sites of Epidaurus and Mycenae. It is 2 hours away from Athens. Another option, totally unknown to foreign tourists, is Lebadea (Livadia). We slept there by chance and were fascinated by its springs. Finally, another beautiful town is Arajova, where we recommend you to stop if you visit Delphi.

Read more:
Athens – The 2020 Travel Guide
Athens – Best Hotels
Athens – Family Hotels
Athens – Cheap Hotels
Athens – Best Things to Do
Athens – Best Restaurant
Athens – Getting Around
Athens – Flights and Ferries to Mykonos
Athens – Flights and Ferries to Santorini
Athens – Airport Rental Car